AFP: Weaker NPA, ASG; MILF contained in 2010

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 31 2010 06:26 PM | Updated as of Jan 01 2011 02:33 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The military on Friday said that they have further reduced the strength of armed communist rebels and a terrorist group in 2010 due to its "successful operations" as it starts the implementation of a new operational security plan.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-led New People's Army (NPA) is at a historic low of 4,111 members at the end of 2010. The military official said this is down from 4,702 at the end of 2009.

Burgos said that 591 rebels were neutralized in 2010 and that 52 percent of these surrendered and later availed themselves of the social integration and livelihood program of the government.

Also among those neutralized, Burgos said, were 5 leaders of CPP regional committee and 3 secretaries of front committees in Northern Luzon, Davao region, Panay and Negros island who were arrested.

The military previously said that the NPA had a peak strength of 25,000 in the ‘80s.

"Communist-affected barangays have also decreased from 1,077 to 1,017 at the end of this year, as a result of successful security operations, community-based CMOs (civil military operations) and the implementation of active information drive in rural barangays and urban town centers," said the AFP public affairs office chief.

He also said that 3 guerrilla fronts were dismantled in 2010 bringing to 48 the number of the NPA's guerrilla fronts.

The military's claim, however, is contradicted by a statement of the CPP released on its 42nd anniversary last December 26.

"The New People's Army has 110 to 120 guerrilla fronts that cover significant portions of 800 municipalities in 70 provinces. The number of guerrilla fronts fluctuates because of concentrated enemy attacks with varying durations," said the CPP in its statement.

The government and the National Democratic Front of the CPP and NPA have agreed to resume formal peace talks in February 2011 in Oslo after an impasse of more than five years, following a Christmas ceasefire.

Abu Sayyaf weaker, too

On the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group, Burgos said the terror group's strength is less 51 members to 340 men with 296 firearms at the end of 2010. The ASG's reported strength at the end of 2009 is 391 men with 340 firearms

"The successful counter-terrorism operations resulted to the neutralization of 51 terrorists including key leaders Albader Parad and Abdulgafur Jumdail who were killed in two separate armed clashes by government forces in Sulu," Burgos said.

"More importantly, counterterrorism efforts have resulted to a significant reduction in the frequency of terrorist attacks from 54 last year to 29 this year," he added.

"MILF successfully contained"


On the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Burgos said that there was no significant change in strength but he reported a significant reduction in violent incidents attributed to the group.

"The separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front, despite having no significant change in its strength, has been successfully contained by the military while upholding the primacy of the peace process and adhering to the standing ceasefire agreement with them," said Burgos.

He said violent incidents involving the MILFin 2010 numbered just 31 compared to 298 in 2009.

"Such decrease in violent incidents reflects the improving conditions of peace and stability in Central Mindanao, and with the absence of major hostilities between our forces and the MILF, prospects on the peace process are perceived with strong optimism," said the the AFP public affairs office chief.

The government is implementing a ceasefire with the MILF but peace negotiations have been stalled due to an issue on the Third-Party Facilitator of the talks. Government negotiators have earlier said they are hopeful the peace talks could start by January.

MILF's chief negotiator had said that the he will not meet with government counterparts unless the issue is resolved.

Oplan Bayanihan


Meanwhile, Operational Plan Bayanihan, the military's combat strategy during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III in fighting communist rebels will start with the New Year replacing the previous operational plan Bantay Laya II (OBL II) which ended mid-2010.

National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP chief  Gen. Ricardo David unveiled the new security plan during the AFP's 75th anniversary celebrations at Camp Aguinaldo last December 21.

Aquino, the AFP's commander in chief, was guest of honor and speaker during the event.

"It involves a paradigm shift wherein the perspective is on winning the peace rather than defeating the enemy. There will be equal emphasis on the combat and non-combat dimension of the campaign such that efforts are not only focused on combat operations but will likewise give importance on the peaceful settlement of conflicts. Hence, parameters of success shall also put importance on the number of friends won as contrasted to enemies killed," said Burgos of the new counterinsurgency plan.
 
Increased involvement of the various stakeholders from the government and non-government sectors is one of the features trumpeted by the military.

"It also advocates the ‘people-centered approach' under the broader frame of Human Security as the AFP seeks to protect the people while at the same time supporting their capacity development, and recognizing their indispensable role as partners in peace and security," said Burgos.

In a separate statement last December 20, the CPP has, however, already dismissed the military's new internal security plan comparing it to OBL II it as "the same dog with a different collar."

"The OBL has been widely criticized for giving rise to the spate of extra-judicial killings and abductions targeting mainly social activists and critics of the government and the ruling system. It was known for its brutal military operations and other gross human rights abuses that have caused massive sufferings of the people, especially in suspected New People's Army areas as well as those fighting in the legal and parliamentary arena," said the CPP in the statement.

"Aquino's Oplan Bayanihan is not at all new except in name and heavy cosmetizing... Like its predecessor, Oplan Bayanihan is sure to fail in its declared objectives of defeating the people's revolutionary armed resistance," said the CPP.